Dennis Schroder guides Atlanta Hawks past Denver Nuggets

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Hawks head out to the West Coast for their final games before the All-Star break with a victory after continuing their winning ways at home against the Denver Nuggets.

Dennis Schroder had 24 points and 10 assists as the Hawks, up by 20 points early in the third quarter, withstood a Nuggets rally for a 117-106 victory Wednesday night.

“It’s big to get the last win for our fans. We’re not going to be here for two weeks,” Schroder said.

Denver was within four points with less than two minutes remaining, but Paul Millsap completed a three-point play and Schroder hit a pair of free throws to put the Hawks (31-22) back in control.

Millsap had 23 points as Atlanta placed seven players in double figures. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kent Bazemore each scored 14 points, while Dwight Howard had 11 points and 13 rebounds.

“We pushed the ball well and (were) defending as a team,” Schroder said of the Hawks’ 72-point first half. “We got some easy points off transition. … We were playing fast. I think that is the best for us.”

It was the Hawks’ fifth straight victory over the Nuggets in Atlanta and gave them a sweep of the season series.

Wilson Chandler scored 24 points for the Nuggets (23-29), and Nikola Jokic contributed 18 points and 15 rebounds.

“I was proud of the fight we showed, but on the road against a good team like Atlanta, you can’t build yourself a 20-point deficit and expect to come back,” Denver coach Michael Malone said.

Will Barton came off the Nuggets’ bench to provide 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, but he was 0 of 9 from behind the 3-point arc as the Nuggets went 13 of 44 from deep. Gary Harris, who scored 13, was 1 of 8 on 3-point attempts.

“We had really good shots that went in and out,” Malone said.

It was a strange three-game homestand for the Hawks, who never trailed in a victory over the Orlando Magic on Saturday, never led against the Utah Jazz on Monday and then never were behind against Denver.

The Hawks, who remain a half-game behind first-place Washington in the Southeast Division, were up 72-55 at intermission against the Nuggets while posting their highest total for a half this season.

Atlanta, which hit its first four 3-point attempts, had four players in double figures by the break while shooting 56 percent, including 7 of 14 from behind the arc, and committing just one turnover.

Schroder had 12 of his 18 first-half points in the opening quarter as the Hawks jumped out to a 39-30 lead.

Bazemore made all three of his 3-point attempts had had 13 points at intermission, while Millsap and Hardaway each scored 10.

Chandler had 15 points at halftime and Barton scored 13 off the bench despite missing all six of his 3-point attempts. The Nuggets were 6 of 22 from behind the arc in the first half.

Denver made 4 of 9 3-point attempts in the third quarter and took advantage of seven Hawks turnovers to get within 98-87 going into the final quarter.

“It just didn’t feel like we were together on either end of the court in the third quarter,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We did just enough in the fourth quarter to pull out a win.”

Atlanta missed all except one of its 13 3-point attempts in the second half but was still able to hold off the Nuggets.

The Hawks made 6 of 7 free throws in the final quarter and were 15 of 18 for the game compared to 13 of 21 for the Nuggets.

NOTES: The Nuggets were without starters F Danilo Gallinari (groin) and G Emmanuel Mudiay (back). Gallinari missed his fourth straight game, and Mudiay didn’t play for the fourth time in the past seven games. … F Kenneth Faried returned to the Denver lineup after missing a game for personal reasons. He scored one point in 10 minutes. … Hawks G/F Thabo Sefolosha (groin) missed his sixth game in a row. “I would say we are hopeful of him playing before the All-Star break,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. … The Hawks signed G/F Lamar Patterson to a second 10-day contract, but he did not play. … Atlanta scored the last nine points — all at the foul line — to win 109-108 at Denver on Dec. 23. … The Hawks open a three-game trip to the West Coast on Friday at Sacramento. … The Nuggets play the New York Knicks on Friday in the middle of a three-game swing.

Buddhist monks protest arrival of Rohingya aid ship in Myanmar

Feb. 9 (UPI) — Buddhist monks and other protesters demonstrated in Myanmar against the arrival of a ship from Malaysia carrying aid for thousands of Rohingya people.

The protesters on Thursday waved Myanmar’s national flag and signs reading “No Rohingya” in Yangon’s Thilawa Port. Buddhist national groups are opposed to the presence of the ethnic Rohingya in Myanmar — calling them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, though many have lived in Myanmar for generations.

The protesters also oppose using the word “Rohingya” at all because, to them, they are people from Bangladesh living illegally in Myanmar. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in Myanmar.

The aid ship, the Nautical Aliya, which carried more than 2,200 of cargo for Rohingyas in Myanmar and Bangladesh, docked at about 3 p.m. The ship will drop off 500 tons of aid in Myanmar before departing to Bangladesh.

“We want to let them know that we have no Rohingya here,” a Buddhist monk from the Yangon chapter of the Patriotic Myanmar Monks Union said at the docks.

More than 66,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar since October 2016 after the army launched a military crackdown following an attack by a Rohingya militant group.

Malaysia has been critical of Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya since the start of the military crackdown accused of human rights abuses.

The ship was met by a crowd of about 100 people — including protesters but mostly journalists and local officials, such as Myanmar’s Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Minister Win Myat Aye, Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican and Malaysian Ambassador to Myanmar Mohd Haniff.

Miami Heat beat Milwaukee Bucks, extend win streak to 12

MILWAUKEE — Two teams headed in opposite directions maintained their current courses Wednesday night as Miami extended its winning streak to 12 games with a 106-88 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, who lost for the 11th time in their last 13 games.

Hassan Whiteside led the way, scoring 23 points with 16 rebounds, while James Johnson added 29 off the bench, and Wayne Ellington knocked down five 3-pointers to finish with 17 points.

Goran Dragic got things started for Miami. The veteran guard scored nine of his 16 points in the first quarter as the Heat raced to a 17-2 lead out of the gate.

They held Milwaukee to 7-for-21 shooting in the opening quarter and while the Bucks managed to get within six midway through the second, Miami clamped down on the defensive end, took an 11-point lead into halftime and never let the lead get lower than nine the rest of the way.

“We’ve developed a thick skin and some mental toughness,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’ve been through a lot of battles and a lot of close games, a lot of pain. We’ve gained some experience from that pain. And now we’re starting to execute better and with a little bit more poise at the end of the games.”

The Bucks were hoping to get a boost from the return of Khris Middleton, who had been sidelined since tearing his left hamstring on the eve of training camp and missed the first 50 games of the season.

Instead, they’re facing an uncertain future after forward Jabari Parker suffered a left knee injury midway through the third quarter.

Parker was driving to the basket when his left knee seemed to buckle, sending him to the ground. He had to be helped off the floor by his teammates and did not return.

The team called it a sprained left knee and Parker will undergo an MRI examination Thursday.

“It’s disappointing,” center Greg Monroe said. “At first, when he asked for a second, that’s when I realized it was kind of serious. It’s tough. I don’t exactly know what’s wrong with him at this point, so I can’t comment on it. I just know, for him, coming back from his previous injury and how hard he worked. I know he doesn’t want to be in that situation. So, we’re praying for him.”

Parker tore the ACL in the same knee just 25 games into his rookie season. He underwent surgery and missed the final 56 games of the 2014-15 campaign and the first four last season before returning to action.

But general manager John Hammond wasn’t in the mood to speculate.

“We’re not even going to go there until we know more and that won’t be determined until tomorrow,” Hammond said.

Before the injury, Parker was one of the few bright spots for the Bucks, hitting six of 11 shots for 14 points.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee with 22, including a pair of 3-pointers with eight rebounds and a pair of steals.

Michael Beasley was the only other Milwaukee player to score in double-digits, finishing with 11.

“There’s a lot of things we can clean up in that game,” Monroe said. “That’s it. That’s all we can say, really. They played harder than us.”

Milwaukee began the day 11th in the Eastern Conference, a game ahead of Miami. The teams now are tied, and sit two games behind Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

“We have to do a lot more energy and effort into what we’re doing,” said reserve guard Jason Terry. “We’ve done it. We’re just so inconsistent with that energy and effort that we have to look inside ourselves and figure it out.

“The season will be over quicker than you know it if we don’t figure this out.”

NOTES: Wednesday marked the season debut of G-F Khris Middleton, who missed the Bucks’ first 50 games after tearing his left hamstring on the eve of training camp. Middleton, the Bucks’ leading scorer a year ago, scored five points in 15 minutes of work. … The Heat’s 12-game winning streak is the longest in NBA history by a sub-.500 team and matches this year’s Golden State Warriors, who also won 12 straight. … Both C Roy Hibbert and F-C Spencer Hawes were inactive for the Bucks. Neither player has seen action since they were acquired last week from the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for C Miles Plumlee. Bucks coach Jason Kidd said he wanted them to get more practice time before seeing game action.

Birthday boy Klay Thompson leads Golden State Warriors past Chicago Bulls

OAKLAND, Calif. — Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson celebrated his 27th birthday Wednesday like none of the previous 26.

One day after attending the funeral of his grandfather, Thompson returned to the basketball court with a purpose — to win an NBA game on his birthday for the first time.

Six 3-pointers and 28 points later, mission accomplished.

“Third time’s the charm, I guess,” Thompson proudly stated after he and his Warriors teammates outscored the Chicago Bulls 45-12 from beyond the 3-point arc on their way to a comfortable 123-92 win.

The victory, which came three days after a loss at Sacramento, allowed the Warriors to extend their NBA-record streak of games without consecutive losses to 138.

Golden State is now 18-0 following a loss in the run that dates back to April 2015.

Kevin Durant recorded a 22-point, 10-rebound double-double with seven assists, and Draymond Green added 19 points to complement eight rebounds and six assists as the Warriors (44-8) recorded their seventh straight home win.

The Bulls (26-27) were playing without All-Star small forward Jimmy Butler, who missed his third consecutive game with a bruised heel, and shooting guard Dwyane Wade, who stayed at the team hotel because of an upper-respiratory illness.

“There’s never any excuses in this league,” said Bulls center Robin Lopez, who had team highs in points (17) and rebounds (10). “We didn’t come out the right way in the first quarter. We committed a lot of turnovers … so we were playing from behind.”

The game began with many, including Warriors coach Steve Kerr, wondering about his team’s mindset.

Golden State was playing at home against an outmatched team, had a possible look-ahead to an attention-grabbing back-to-back at Memphis and Oklahoma City, and had endured a second Durant-Green squabble Sunday night in Sacramento.

And then there was Thompson, who was away from the team Monday and Tuesday while dealing with his family matter.

Turns out, Thompson was the least of the Warriors’ worries.

“Tough time,” Thompson said of the aftermath of his grandfather’s death. “My family loves to watch me play. This was a good way to honor them tonight.”

The outcome wasn’t in doubt for long after the Warriors broke from an 11-11 tie with a 13-point flurry. Thompson contributed a pair of 3-pointers and Durant a three-point play to the early runaway.

The Warriors extended the lead to 15 in the second quarter and 20 in the third en route to a ninth consecutive home win this season against Eastern Conference competition.

All 13 Warriors scored, including newcomer Briante Weber, who not only dropped in a hoop but also participated in a late runaway.

“I loved the way we finished the game,” Kerr said. “We had the upper hand in talent with their injuries. We just had to stick with it.”

Thompson, who made his 400th career start, finished 10 of 18 from the field and 6 of 9 on 3-pointers, helping the Warriors go 15 of 28 from beyond the arc.

Green made five of his six 3-point attempts.

Stephen Curry had one of the 3-pointers but saw his streak of consecutive games with 20 or more points end at 16. He finished with 13 points in just 28 minutes.

The Bulls, meanwhile, missed 20 of their 24 3-point attempts.

Taj Gibson supported frontcourt mate Lopez with 15 points and nine rebounds for the Bulls, who fell to 2-2 on their six-game trip.

“Golden State … when they lost (to Sacramento) and had some time to recover and regroup, it’s a tough team to play against,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Especially when there’s some controversy (the Durant-Green dispute) that sounds like it was mostly (baloney).”

Backup Rajon Rondo had a game-high eight assists to go with 12 points and six rebounds for Chicago, which shot just 40.2 percent from the field.

The Warriors made 55.8 percent of their shots overall and totaled 37 assists on 48 hoops.

NOTES: Warriors SG Klay Thompson not only had lost on his birthday twice previously in his NBA career, but he averaged only 13.0 points in those games. … The Warriors’ next two games are Friday at Memphis, which has beaten Golden State twice already this season, and Saturday at Oklahoma City in SF Kevin Durant’s return. … The Bulls finish of their six-game trip at Phoenix on Friday and at Minnesota on Sunday. … Bulls SF Jimmy Butler (bruised heel) reported continuing pain during Wednesday’s shootaround, making him doubtful to return Friday. … The Bulls expect to get SG Dwyane Wade (upper respiratory infection) back for the Phoenix game.

Miller: History against Atlanta Falcons' return to Super Bowl

The Atlanta Falcons were one of the youngest teams to reach the Super Bowl, nearly won it but lost to an all-time great performance by an all-time great quarterback, and, you might think, left Houston well-positioned to make another championship run in 2017.

Don’t count on it.

History tells us it has become increasingly difficult for teams to make that second climb up the mountain after losing the Super Bowl. It was not always that way; in fact, in the early years of the NFL’s Roman numeral game, losers routinely came back to win soon after, sometimes the next year. Now, however, in an era of more intense pressure and scrutiny, it rarely happens.

Ernie Accorsi, a retired general manager who led the New York Giants to the Super Bowl and the old Cleveland Browns to the precipice, once explained the difference between then and now. Basically, it comes down to the scrutiny teams undergo when they lose.

Years ago, he said, a team would lose a big game, would get on its plane and come back home and perhaps a couple of local writers or broadcasters would ask a few questions and then move on.

Now, however, every game is magnified, every question seemingly is loaded with nuance, and the attention is much greater. In the case of the Falcons, perhaps even moreso because of their carelessness trying to protect a huge lead, with a coach who only two years earlier experienced what can happen against the New England Patriots if you’re not careful.

Yes, as much as Kyle Shanahan can be faulted for the play-calling that led to sacks that kept the Falcons from clinching the game, it was incumbent on coach Dan Quinn to tell Shanahan to tone it down late in the third and in the fourth quarter. That’s the head coach’s job. Especially a head coach who saw what happened to his own team 104 weeks earlier, when he was with a Seattle team that threw a pass it should not have thrown instead of handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch at the goal line.

The Falcons are young enough to be resilient. Eight of their 11 defensive starters in the Super Bowl were in their first two years in the NFL. So maybe they can close their eyes, pretend it didn’t happen or use it as a learning experience, and return next year fully prepared to make another championship run.

Perhaps.

But perhaps they will so damaged by the way their season ended, the young Falcons will have a hard time getting focused, psyched and prepared to undergo the mental and physical rigors of another climb through the NFL gauntlet. A quarterback named Dan Marino could tell them what happens when you lose a Super Bowl you expect to win early in your career, and count on getting another chance.

In the 1984 season, his second in the NFL, Marino threw 48 touchdown passes, at the time a record. But the Dolphins could score just one touchdown in the Super Bowl and were hammered by the San Francisco 49ers, 38-16. Marino played 15 more seasons, but never reached another Super Bowl.

Take a look at what happened to the Carolina Panthers, last year’s Super Bowl loser, whose quarterback Cam Newton was supposed to be the Next Big Thing in the NFL. Newton’s TD-interception ratio dropped from 35-10 to 19-14, his passer rating fell from 99.4 to 75.8, his rushing yardage fell from 636 to 359, and the Panthers, who were 15-1 in the 2015 regular season, were 6-10 in 2016.

Seattle, which lost the Super Bowl following the 2014 season (after winning the previous one), also has suffered a Super Bowl hangover. The Seahawks lost in the divisional playoff round the last two years.

Discounting New England, which has made the Super Bowl a regular part of its schedule with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, the only team in the last quarter-century that lost a Super Bowl and returned to win one within five years was Denver, with Peyton Manning. The Broncos were crushed by Seattle in the Super Bowl following the 2013 season, but beat Carolina two years later.

In the early years of the Super Bowl, however, it happened all the time. Kansas City lost Super Bowl I and won Super Bowl IV. Baltimore lost Super Bowl III and won Super Bowl V. Dallas, which lost Super Bowl V, won the next year, beating Miami, which then won the next two Super Bowls. Dallas lost Super Bowl X but came back to win Super Bowl XII.

Certainly, Atlanta will be a favorite in the NFC in the 2017 season. But the Falcons will have to hope a new offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, can help them put the Super Bowl disappointment aside, and they’ll have to hope their young players can manage to climb that mountain again while putting aside the avalanche that ended the 2016 season.

It’s not impossible, of course. But it doesn’t happen very often anymore.

Ira Miller is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the National Football League for more than five decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is a national columnist for The Sports Xchange.

NBC's Bob Costas being replaced by Mike Tirico at Olympics

Tirico and Costas (Source: NBC)Tirico and Costas (Source: NBC)

NEW YORK (AP) – NBC’s Bob Costas is saying goodbye to the Olympics.

The network says the veteran sportscaster is stepping down as the prime-time host of NBC’s Olympics telecast, starting at the next winter games in South Korea.

He’ll be replaced by Mike Tirico, who has been the heir apparent since joining NBC from ESPN last year.

Costas has been the prime-time host for 11 Olympics televised by NBC since 1992.

He is 64 years old. He said he felt the time was right and that he was grateful NBC let him decide that on his own.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.